Friday, April 18, 2008

Potatoes yet

Did you know 2008 is the International Year of the Potato? I know I'm singularly uninformed when it comes to current affairs but it struck me as unusual to dedicate a year to a vegetable.

I think my protected and insular upbringing has sheltered me from a lot of the horrors of the world. I've been lucky enough to grow up in a country that has never seen a war. Well, when I say never seen a war, Darwin was bombed during WWII and before that there was the Eureka Stockade (our one claim to a fight for independence). Our soldiers have always gone away to war, beginning with the Boer War, although Australians didn't actually fight as independent Australians in that war. It finished before our first contingent after Federation in 1901 arrived in South Africa. We still have people in other countries risking their lives for others (I wish a safe return for all of them), but that isn't my focus here.

In Australia, we've never had to fight to defend our lives, our homes, our families. The entire history of settlement in Australia has been relatively peaceful in modern terms. (I say 'relatively' because the treatment of the Aborigines is a whole other story.) While we haven't always been a wealthy country, we have always been the country of opportunity. Logically and intellectually we know that not everyone is so fortunate but in a comfortable life, the impact isn't great.

It's this balloon of ease that has made it so confronting for me to suddenly realise, emotionally, that a small thing like a potato could mean the difference between life and death. In my life, I have so much choice the potato features in my diet two or three times a month, no more. Yet, without it so many would die.

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